Home' The River Weekly News : RWN 081415 Contents Historic Downtown Fort Myers, Then And Now:
Hunter’s, Mainstay In The Bradford
by Gerri Reaves, PhD
For four decades, the drug store pictured here was located in a
Bradford Building storefront on the northeast corner of First
and Hendry. Pharmacist Nathaniel H. Hunter opened his drug
store there right after the first phase of the Bradford was built in
Harvie E. Heitman and financial backer, “Tootie” (Mrs. Ambrose
M.) McGregor, built the three-story Bradford (the upper floors were
an hotel) and named it for her recently deceased son.
Hunter’s was a family business. Nathaniel’s brother, Dr. AP
Hunter, came to Fort Myers soon after Nathaniel opened his
pharmacy and worked there. (When Lee Memorial Hospital was
founded several years later, the physician also served on the hospital staff.) The brothers’
nephew, pharmacist Charles Hunter Brown, also worked at the drug store.
The employees’ smart outfits and the attractive storefront are what one would expect
in downtown’s oh-so-modern second brick structure that had helped establish a new look
for downtown just after the turn of the 20th century.
The reflections of wood-frame buildings in the store windows, as well as the street
number (which changed frequently in early Fort Myers) help to date the historic photo,
suggesting that it was taken just before construction of the granite First National Bank
and the brick Earnhardt Building began across First Street.
The bank would be constructed early in 1914 and the Earnhardt all but completed by
the end of that year.
Whether you needed a pick-me-up tonic, a box of candy, shaving soap or an ice
cream soda, Hunter’s had it.
The storefront’s plentiful advertising gives an idea of the typical products and services
customers could expect to find in an up-to-date pharmacy of the era.
Hunter’s was “the Rexall store,” part of a manufacturing cooperative formed circa
1902 for franchised drugstores at the turn of the 20th century.
Rexall stores could sell a variety of products, from patent medicines to candy, and ben-
efit from national advertising.
For example, note the sign in the right window advertising Rexall Orderlies “for the
bowels,” a product described in company advertising as the “delicious laxative.”
The baby-doll cutouts in the left window decorate a display of various tonics, including
A sign over that display advertises the Southern Express Company, a sort of early
20th century UPS or FedEx that delivered mainly by rail.
Two types of chocolates are advertised, Liggett’s, in the window (right) and Nunnally’s,
on a sign over the entryway.
The free-standing “Current Events of the World” poster with baseball photos is adver-
tising “Piedmont, the cigarette of quality.” That company also published baseball cards in
that time period.
In another sign of modernity, the store’s ads urged customers to “phone your drug
wants to us” as early as 1915.
Even after Hunter’s long run, the location continued as a drug store, Frey’s Pharmacy.
Today, a bank occupies the space once known for tonics, candies and a superb soda
Walk down to the Bradford Block to visit the site of one of downtown’s longest lived
and most remembered drugstores.
Then, travel a few more blocks to the Southwest Florida Museum of History at
2031Jackson Street, where you can see exhibits about the business district of early Fort
Call 321-7430 for information, or go to museumofhistory.org. Hours are 10 a.m. to
5 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday.
If you love local history, be sure to visit the Southwest Florida Historical Society’s
research center at 10091 McGregor Boulevard on the campus of the Lee County Alli-
ance for the Arts.
The all-volunteer non-profit organization is open Wednesday and Saturday between 9
a.m . and noon and Wednesday 4 to 7 p.m. Call 939-4044 or visit swflhistoricalsociety.
org for more information.
Sources: The Archives of the Southwest Florida Historical Society and capnrexall.
THE RIVER - AUGUST 14, 2015
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and Ken Rasi
Gerri Reaves, Ph D
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Marion Hauser, MS, RD
Ross Hauser, MD
Capt. Matt Mitchell
Cynthia A. Williams
Hunter’s Drug Store moved into the Bradford Building right after it was built in 1905 and
remained for 40 years. Pictured in this circa-1913 photo are owner-pharmacist Nathaniel H.
Hunter (in doorway and wearing bowtie) and Thomas W. Langford (far right), who had been
Lee County’s first sheriff. The stairway entrance on the far right leads to the hotel.
photo courtesy Southwest Florida Historical Society
A bank occupies the former Hunter’s space
photo by Gerri Reaves
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